Session 8: Reading Revelation Messianically (Revelation 12:1-6)
The book of Revelation has perhaps the fewest OT references of all the NT. G.K. Beale goes so far as to say there are no direct quotations in the entire book! However, almost every single verse contains allusions and echoes of Old Testament texts (Revelation 12:1-6).
- Play: Session 8 Video
The book of Revelation has perhaps the fewest OT references of all the NT. G.K. Beale goes so far as to say there are no direct quotations in the entire book! However, almost every single verse contains allusions and echoes of Old Testament texts.
Rev 12:1: And a great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars.
Probably, the background for this comes from Gen 37:9. There, Joseph has a dream about what will happen to him in the future; the sun, moon and eleven stars bow down to Joseph. There obviously isn't a one-to-one correspondence, but it probably represents a stock-in-trade usage where the idea has been assimilated into the thinking of John's world.
Later Rabbinic sources (Midr. Rab. Num 2:13) tied the sun to Abraham, the moon to Isaac and the stars to Jacob and his sons.
Rev 12:2: She was pregnant and was crying out in birth pains and the agony of giving birth.
This surely echoes some of the prophets, with this imagery of Israel being in birth pangs before it is delivered from foreign oppression.
- Isa 26:17-18:
- Isa 66:7-9:
- Micah 4:9-10:
- Therefore, the people of God are giving birth.
Rev 12:3: And another sign appeared in heaven: behold, a great red dragon, with seven heads and ten horns, and on his heads seven diadems.
- CNTOT: "God is spoken of as defeating Pharaoh as a sea dragon at the exodus deliverance and at later points in Egypt’s history (Ps. 74:13–14; 89:10; Isa. 30:7; 51:9; Ezek. 29:3; 32:2–3; Hab. 3:8–15; Pss. Sol. 2:29–30; see Ps. 87:4, where “Rahab” is a synonym for Egypt; cf. Jer. 51:34, where Babylon is the subject; see also Amos 9:3)."
- See specifically Ezek 29:3, where Pharaoh is compared to a great dragon.
- Ps Sol identifies the dragon as Rome, especially Pompey.
Rev 12:4: His tail swept down a third of the stars of heaven and cast them to the earth. And the dragon stood before the woman who was about to give birth, so that when she bore her child he might devour it.
This is taken from the idea of Dan 8:10, where the little horn grows up and causes some of the stars to fall to earth, trampling them down in the process.
- Probably, this word in Daniel applied to Antiochus Epiphanes, the "little horn" he spoke of often. However, this is now applied by John in a greater way to the power behind Antiochus: that of the devil himself.
- The LXX translated this to apply to the captivity.
Why a third? Perhaps because it was only a partial attack on the community. However, this is the community of God under attack.
Rev 12:5: She gave birth to a male child, one who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron, but her child was caught up to God and to his throne,
The verse alludes to Ps 2:7-9.
- Note: Rev 12:5 says the child is a "male," emphasizing the "son" aspect.
- Rev 19:15a confirms Jesus' fulfillment.
- In fact, even Rev 2:26-27 confirmed that Jesus had been given that authority.
Interestingly, the entire life, ministry, death and resurrection of Jesus is abbreviated here. The focus is on his victory and ascension to God.
- But why skip the life/ministry/death of Jesus? Perhaps because oftentimes, especially in the ANE, a ruler's birthday was the day he began to rule. Thus, since Psalm 2 speaks of the "begotten" son of God who would rule the nations, this is the emphasis here: the woman gave birth to a child who would rule.
In essence, this passage is reminiscent of Isa 7:14, where the woman is with child. But perhaps the clearer reference is to Isa 66:7, which we just saw above.
It's possible that even the use of the neuter adjective (male) with "child/son" in the masculine (Rev reads καὶ ἔτεκεν υἱὸν ἄρσεν,) is itself an allusion to Isa 66:7 (where it reads "ἔτεκεν ἄρσεν"), an irregular grammatical construction intended "to jolt the reader, so that attention will be directed back more readily to Isaiah."
Rev 12:6: and the woman fled into the wilderness, where she has a place prepared by God, in which she is to be nourished for 1,260 days.
The woman represents the people of God. She flees to a place prepared by God, or derived from God, Beale suggests, for 1,260 days. This is the church in the wilderness.
However, notice the Exodus imagery here. Moses was in the wilderness; the people of Israel were in the wilderness; Elijah was in the wilderness. Jesus' parents fled to Egypt, and Matthew links this to the Exodus. Thus, it seems we have a set theme here of the people of God going out into the wilderness after a victory. Thus, Jesus has opened the way for a new Exodus of the people of God.
- Note the connection in Rev 12:14 to "wings of the great eagle," just like Exodus 19.4.
Note also the connection to Hos. 2:14–15.
- Thus, since Jesus had already fulfilled all of these things himself, being tempted in the wilderness and even conducting his ministry there, he is the ideal Israelite after which the rest come. Beale notes on the protection piece: "They are protected because they are represented by their divine hero, with whose death and resurrection they are identified (cf. Rom. 6:3–11; 2 Cor. 5:14–15). Therefore, “in Christ,” though their outer bodies could be hurt by persecution (cf. 2 Cor. 4:16; 12:7; 1 Thess. 2:18), their inner spiritual persons are “hid with Christ in God” (Col. 3:3)." The time - 3.5 years - is this "time, times and half a time" mentioned in Dan 7:25, Dan 9, Dan 12, etc.
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